Kyle, I think you've got some good points. But I'd hesitate to suggest that
the core problem with compliance stems from learned helplessness, laziness,
etc. Certainly that could be an aspect of it for some individuals, but i
think the systemic core of the problem is a little broader, at least in our
culture. Staff numbers remain static, but responsibilities (and gate
counts) keep increasing. As things get busier, we focus on our core
responsibilities and some of the added stuff can fall to the wayside. If
the overhead of participating in the backup system exceeds the available
mental space, then people are going to forget/ignore it in lieu of more
central concerns. I don't think this is indicative of poor staff quality,
though -- just a natural process of triage.

I don't think the correct solution is punitive -- that would only make the
existing problem of managing responsibilities worse. Assuming that we're
not going to get additional personnel, the best route is probably to
implement a system that's as streamlined and easy as possible for the
participants. This is why the doorbell works so well. See line: ring bell.
Hear bell: come assist. There's only one active element in the scenario,
everything else happens passively until help is requested; and the active
element is easy to do and can be done without taking too much attention
away from the main task of assisting patrons.

As for the particulars of implementing such a system, that's all
engineering. I'm sure there's a way a similar system could be implemented
that would get around the inherent limitations of the building
configuration. You could have doorbell-over-IP for all I know. Or something
something Arduino something something. I agree, though, that the general PA
system would be a bad bet and disturb patrons. One of the reason our
doorbell is pretty reliable is that the chime lives in a non-public staff
space, but where staff are typically around to hear it. (Incidentally, our
RF doorbell, at the limit of its range, is about 175 feet from the chime,
and passes through three walls and an electrical closet as the crow flies
(but only one wall if RF is good at bouncing around corners).)

On Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 9:14 AM, Kyle Banerjee <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:01 PM, Andreas Orphanides <[log in to unmask]
> >wrote:
> > The right implementation is important for adoption, of course, but for a
> > backup system to be helpful it needs to encourage compliance -- including
> > things like having the backup folks available for monitoring, remembering
> > to sign in / turn on walkie talkie / charge batteries, etc. This is
> > definitely the place where we struggle. We have BOTH an IM-based
> > beckon-help system AND walkie talkies for intra- and inter-departmental
> > help requests. But it's very easy to not log into pidgin, to forget that
> > there's a chat widget on the staff dashboard where you can page help, to
> > not pick up the radio at the beginning of a shift. Does anyone have any
> > ideas about how to make this stuff more natural and automatic? Are there
> > lessons we can learn from the retail world that will help us monitor
> > service points better?
> >
> Sure. If staff need a tool to perform an essential function (word
> processor, email, web browser, calendar, telephone, in/out board,
> whatever), communicate what is needed, provide training, expect them to be
> responsible, and follow up when issues appear. Most retail outlets use
> intercoms or walkie talkies to call people to service points. People who
> consistently don't perform are released.
> <rant>One thing that drives me batty about library culture is that it
> encourages learned helplessness and accepts nonperformance. People have
> different strengths, weakness, learning methods/curves, and preferences.
> But staff should still be expected to master basic skills and procedures
> that it takes to do a job on a daily basis.
> If you treat people like responsible professionals, you'll find that they
> are. However, if you set out the expectation that they're dumb and
> incapable, they'll also oblige. Society at large figured out long ago that
> it doesn't do anyone any favors to tell girls they're too helpless and
> bubbleheaded to do math, anything mechanical, or anything technical so
> don't worry about getting anything useful done. When will libraries quit
> perpetrating attitudes that everyone else abandoned in the last century?
> Nonsense like that holds us all back.</rant>
> > Also, on some level, the most low-tech solutions can be effective. Right
> > now the paging system that's had the best track records is this: one of
> > those hardware store doorbells with a battery-operated button that
> signals
> > a remote chime.
> >
> In the case at hand, we're talking about a building with 50-60 staff
> members, 50+ student employees, and 3 service points. Wiring in different
> chimes (RF doorbells are unlikely to work in a building of this size) from
> each of the service points to reach all areas on different floors where
> staff might be is going to an involved process that costs plenty. Besides,
> they already have an intercom system but patrons complained when they
> played a tone over it.
> kyle